While its always true that safety comes first, your well being and comfort are also important criteria to consider.
The most important questions to ask yourself are:
Do I feel secure and confident in this kayak, or is it good just for flat water?
Will I be comfortable after sitting more than an hour in it? Discomfort, fatigue, leg numbness and back pain tend to amplify with time.
In the likely case I don’t feel comfortable, is there anything I can do to improve the way I feel, such as switching positions or stand up?
Is this kayak fun to paddle or wide and clumsy? Most fishing kayaks are wider than 30″ (76 cm) and therefore don’t paddle well.
Do I want to go through the hassle of manipulating a rudder? No you don’t, but with most kayaks you’ll have to.
If I feel numbness in my legs can I change positions? Some kayak anglers feel so bad after sitting in or on their traditional kayaks that they jump overboard and swim or walk if the water is shallow enough.
Do I feel any pressure points when sitting? And what about after an hour? Foam cushioned back rests don’t prevent back pain, they just delay it for a while.
Is this kayak easy for me to launch, or do I have to struggle to enter it?
Is it acceptable for me to step in water each time I launch and beach? Well, let’s say you want to be able to decide if and when you’ll step in water, but regular fishing kayaks don’t offer you such choice.
What kind of gear am I going to take with me, and are storage solution offered by ordinary kayaks acceptable for me? You want take whatever gear you feel like, and access it anytime you want, but storage hatches won’t let you do that.
Where am I going to fish, and what am I going to fish? Is that fishing kayak going to protect you in bad weather? wind? cold? surf? Is it stable and reliable enough to enable you to deal with strong fish?
Where and what am I going to fish?
Once you’ve established what the answers to the first set of questions are, you need to think about the type of fishing you’d like to do. The conclusion might be that you don’t need or want a kayak at all, and you may be better served by another type of paddle craft (e.g. canoe, pirogue), or even a small motorboat.
In case you’re thinking about kayak fishing at sea you need to make sure you understand the risks involved, and realize that ‘stuff happens’ – sooner or later, in a mild or severe form. Most fishing kayaks don’t handle the surf well, which means you’re likely to capsize either on your way in or out, and even if you don’t capsize you’ll be soaked from the first moment throughout your entire fishing trip: Traditional kayak fishing experts would tell you that fishing from sit-in kayak (SIK) is not practical since you’d have to use a spray skirt that would limit your access to gear inside the cockpit. They would recommend that you use a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak that has offers practically no protection against the elements and lets water penetrate the cockpit through its scupper holes… In sum, whether you fish from a SIK or an SOT a ‘wet ride’ is a fact you have to accept, unless you wear waders, which can be very dangerous if you go overboard in water that’s too deep for you to stand in.
You may also want to consider the fact that traditional, native kayak fishing was done mainly in protected waters such lakes, rivers, estuaries and bays, while native arctic fishermen were more likely to use large-size and stable canoes called Umiaks for their Ocean fishing and whale hunting expeditions.
The ocean is challenging not only in the surf zone, but practically everywhere and at any time: While you’re sitting peacefully in your kayak a motorboat passing nearby may fail to perceive you and either run you over or what is more likely simply cause you to overturn by the effect of its wake hitting your kayak. Such event may turn out to be anything from funny to fatal.
Another factor that should not be taken lightly is marine life: Every year there are divers, surfers, swimmers, wind surfers and paddlers being attacked by sharks. Fishing in shark infested waters from a small watercraft that offers no protection at all is risky by definition, especially in view of the fact that sharks are attracted by the shape of the kayak that similarly to the shape of a surfboard resembles that of a fat seal, and by the scent of bait and fish. Jellyfish, worms and bacteria are sometime abundant in warm waters, and may present other risks.
Cold water can be extremely dangerous, as well as exposure to cold from the combination of spray and wind – Water and weather can kill, and they do.
Currents and wind can easily carry you where you don’t want to go, without you being able to do anything about it.
Bottom line: Unless you use an appropriate boat (primary – prevention strategy) and are perfectly capable of dealing with emergency situations (secondary – reaction strategy) you should abstain from fishing at sea and in large-size bodies of water such as big lakes, big rivers etc.